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Another step taken for Senior Center

During the Anderson County Commission meeting on June 19, Commission voted to approve a Memorandum of Understanding between the county, businessman Michael Farley, and the Anderson County Office on Aging.

Farley is selling the property he currently owns on 205 Main Street to the county for use as a senior citizen center.

The MOU outlined the obligations expected for each of the parties — the county, Farley, and the seniors, and it was announced by county officials at the meeting that the county will close on the property on July 3.

A point of contention in the MOU concerned whether or not section C-10 of the MOU should be left in the agreement as is.

Anderson County Law Director Jay Yeager, who presented the MOU request to Commission at the meeting, explained that section C-10 was an attempt to compensate the director of the senior center, Cherie Phillips, for additional work she could possibly be taking on with the county’s purchase of the Farley building. The additional work would mainly entail scheduling and event coordination duties, Yeager said.

He said it was up to the Office on Aging Board to decide whether or not to pay Phillips to be the scheduling and event coordinator, or to hire someone else to do that job.

The question of Phillips’s pay was a point of debate.

“Somebody’s getting a $12,000 increase in salary in a year’s time period. That’s a lot of money, folks. It’s nothing against her [Phillips], but I think she got a $10,000 raise one time, so now we’re going to vote on potentially giving her a $12,000 raise in a year’s time. I think that’s quite excessive,” stated Dist. 3 Commissioner Phillip Warfield, “By the way it’s written, it can be a $12,000 increase. That’s a heck of a jump in salary.”

Yeager reminded Commissioners that the money to pay for an additional person would not come from county funds, but that it would come “exclusively from the rental proceeds,” and that the Office on Aging Board will vote whether or not to approve this move.

“I would caution about having language that gives a person a flat rate and piece work,” added Commissioner Whitey Hitchcock, Dist. 6.

Commissioners Jerry White, Dist. 5, and Theresa Scott, Dist. 7, pointed out that it would be putting more work on Phillips if section C- 10 was left in the MOU.

If the aim is for the senior center to solicit events, then there should be someone there to work on this full-time, White said.

“I’d like to see Item C-10 erased,” said White.

“The last thing we need to do is over work this woman [Phillips]. I don’t have a problem with her getting work and this is going to be a full-time job, at least through the holidays. I agree to take out C-10,” Scott concurred.

Not all of the commissioners agreed. “I want to see C-10 left in there. It’s up to the advisory board. Two or three times here tonight I felt like we’ve tried to micromanage. She’s got a board she reports to. It’s the Office on Aging and they’re familiar with what needs to be done and what her duties and responsibilities are,” stated Robert McKamey, Dist. 5.

Steve Mead, Dist. 6, also supported leaving section C-10 in the MOU, and argued that taking C-10 out would force the Office on Aging Advisory Board to hire someone for that position “whether they want to or not.”

“I think we need not to micromanage,” Mead cautioned, “They [the Office on Aging Board] should use their own funds the way they want to. If Phillips needs more help, she and her board can make that decision.” Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank also weighed in on the discussion.

“I proposed that we do have language that allows her [Phillips] to hire an events coordinator because that’s based on my belief she should be in the business of serving seniors. The intent was to give her the leeway to be able to hire someone,” Frank said. “If we’re looking at this long-term, Cherie can’t handle this. It’s going to be impossible. We shouldn’t be looking at the senior services as some type of profit making enterprise that’s going to have to fund itself or that she’s going to have to fund her salary through doing events. That gets her off track of what the senior role is.”

White made the motion to eliminate item 10 from the MOU, with the “yes” vote being to remove it and “no” being to keep it in the agreement. The motion received only two passing votes, from Commissioners Scott and White, with the remaining 14 commissioners voting “no.”

The motion was then to vote on the MOU as amended. Commission voted unanimously on the amended motion, leaving C-10 in the MOU, and leaving it up to the Office on Aging Board to determine what to do with the compensation plan for an events and scheduling.